REVIEW DATE: 16 Jan 2009
Mercedes sets out its executive car stall with the latest E-Class. Steve Walker takes a look.
For a crash course in just how much technology it's possible to cram into a modern car, you could do a lot worse than taking a guided tour of the latest Mercedes E-Class. Tick the right boxes and the E-Class can make sure you don't drop off at the wheel, brake to avoid collisions, stop you wandering out of your lane, see in the dark, warn of vehicles in your blind spot and perform all manner of other handy functions completely off its own back. It could all be viewed as prime evidence for any driver of their own rapidly approaching obsolescence but for the time being, the E-Class does still need someone to sign on the dotted line and sit behind its steering wheel. Will it be you?
The primary role of the E-Class is to represent its manufacturer in the executive car market. It's a highly lucrative and fiercely competitive sector which also plays host to big hitters like Audi's A6, BMW's 5 Series, Jaguar's XF and the GS from Lexus. Advanced technology is a must if a product is to prosper in this company but so is a certain understated style and an element of luxury. The fortunes of the E-Class will depend on how well it delivers in all these areas.
There's usually some degree of carry over from the previous model in terms of engines but in the case of this E-Class, there's surprisingly little. It's also revealing that the units that do continue largely unchanged are the V6 and V8 engines that power the quickest petrol models. Leaving these fire-breathing installations intact, the engineers have concentrated their efforts on the four-cylinder range with some intriguing results. The latest CDI diesels use common-rail injection and twin turbocharging to achieve their dual goals of economy and performance.
"The amount of technology shoehorned into the E-Class really is remarkable"
The E220 CDI opens proceedings with 170bhp sitting below the E250 CDI with 204bhp and a storming 500Nm of torque. The ultimate diesel is the 231bhp E350 CDI which has the tough task of replacing the old E320 CDI model. Petrol customers for the time being choose between the V6 E350 CGI and the V8 E500 with its 388bhp.
Mercedes models have traditionally taken a more comfort-orientated approach than the firmly sprung BMWs and the latest E-Class looks to continue in that vein with its adaptive shock absorbers. These automatically adapt to the current driving situation softening or firming up to give optimum stability. Together with the intelligent bodyshell technology which renders this E-Class 30 per cent stiffer than its predecessor, they should deliver a suitably composed driving experience.
Mercedes was never the manufacturer most likely to push the stylistic boat out and come up with a brave new design direction. Instead the E-Class is typically reserved, displaying many of the handsome squared-off elements seen on its smaller C-Class cousin. Inside, the S-Class luxury saloon is the inspiration with quality materials and switchgear in evidence.
The amount of technology shoehorned into the E-Class really is remarkable and the most eye-opening features are aimed at improving the car's safety credentials. Mercedes likens the systems to an 'intelligent partner' who can detect and react to danger, which sounds like an automated back seat driver chiming in every time they think you're going to fast or too close to the car in front. The reality is that the systems are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible until stronger intervention is absolutely necessary.
Adaptive High Beam Assist uses a camera on the windscreen to detect approaching vehicles when you're driving at night to modify the headlamps and give an optimum field of vision at all times. Lane Keeping assist vibrates the steering wheel when it senses that the car is drifting out of its lane. Blind Spot Assist warns you when there's a car in your blind spot and Attention Assist measures 70 parameters to detect if you're falling asleep at the wheel. Then there's Brake Assist Plus that automatically applies optimum braking pressure to help you stop in time during emergency braking.
Although many of the more advanced safety features are confined to the options list, the E-Class does come with nine airbags as standard and an active bonnet that raises up in the event of a collision to help protect pedestrians. The basic SE model also comes with 16" alloy wheels, a leather multi-function steering wheel, an eight speaker stereo with Bluetooth compatibility, a large central display screen to marshal the car's various functions and the Advanced Parking Guidance system.
The lower end of the E-Class engine range has been a major focus in the development of the latest model with a particular view to maximising fuel economy. The three four-cylinder diesel engines can all return combined economy figures in the region of 53.3mpg with emissions of 139g/km which is a very strong showing for an executive car. The entry-level petrol model, meanwhile, is fitted with ECO start/stop technology which cuts the engine when the car is stationary. This helps it to economy of 41.5mpg and 159g/km emissions.
All E-Class models except the V8s feature the Mercedes BlueEfficiency technology which comprises a wide range of small modifications that together can deliver a 3mpg economy saving. Weight-saving measures, aerodynamic improvements and low rolling resistance tyres feature among the innovations.
Mercedes likes its E-Class to give a flavour of the current state of the art when it comes to car manufacturing and the latest model certainly has advanced technology at its heart. In terms of engine technology and safety features, it's aiming to set a new standard in the executive car class and on first impressions, we wouldn't bet against it achieving that goal.
The results below show the top E CLASS deals on buyacar
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI SE 4dr Tip Auto diesel saloon|
|Price £28,514||Save £5,406|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI SE 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £30,277||Save £5,568|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI AMG Sport 4dr Tip Auto diesel saloon|
|Price £30,902||Save £5,633|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI AMG Sport 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £29,401||Save £5,494|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E250 CDI AMG Sport 4dr Tip Auto diesel saloon|
|Price £33,220||Save £5,865|
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|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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